Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of blogs about women in the forestry workforce written by Tanya Wick, vice-president of people and services at Tolko Industries.
When I first started sharing my thoughts about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I was surprised by how much resistance I got. I had started sharing my own thoughts and experiences in my own channels, not my company’s, yet I kept hearing from male leaders that I was making their female employees uncomfortable. The feedback was that there were women in the company who didn’t want me to draw attention to the fact that there were few women in our male-dominated organization. Others felt that the topic was unwarranted, as there were no issues or concerns that needed to be discussed.
It was a disconcerting start, and at times I felt discouraged. But the work was important to me and tapped into my core values where I’m always most inspired and committed, so I carried on. Now, more than two years later, though I’ve had lots of positive feedback, made many new connections and been part of a positive change, I still come up against resistance all the time. Most times the resistance is from someone who’s made an assumption and is not well informed about the goals of the work. Though everything we offer through the Diversity and Inclusion program is optional and only intended to be useful to those who are interested in taking ownership of their careers, some will continue to see the work of inclusion as unnecessary. Sometimes a conversation can shift the resistance, but sometimes it doesn’t, and I have to accept that some will never agree with what I hope to achieve.
For me, I keep myself grounded by reminding myself that resistance can indicate progress. After all, no one actively resists something that is having no discernible impact. On some level, this resistance means I’m doing something right.
I am committed to helping others find their voices and shining a light on their abilities and career goals. This work is deeply personal for me – supporting those who are struggling to find their place has been important to me since I was young. Now that I am the only woman in a senior leadership role in my company, I am also aware of the amount of privilege I have. I believe it is incumbent on me to use my own voice to help make way for others.
You have likely received pushback on something that matters to you, too. I hope you’ll find the courage to stay the course. To help you along the way, here are a few tips of encouragement.
1. Go all in. Don’t hold back to keep others from being upset. You can’t manage how others will feel. Some people will be upset even if you do nothing, so do something and at least they will have something to be upset about! You never know – by showing up as your whole self you might inspire them to act in an area of their life that needs attention.
2. Stay the course. I do it because it’s part of who I am. I find it highly motivating and inspiring when I hear how our discussions are making a change but, yes, change will have bumps and things will go off course. I will make mistakes, but I go in knowing that and accept that progress is never a smooth process. I work to make things better in the culture regardless of the barriers because I want to work in a culture that leads by values.
3. Encourage others. I am endlessly inspired by the energy and ideas of others. There is not one of us that can do it all, we need each other. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the challenge, look around you for inspiration. Lift one another up, offer encouragement, compliments and unbridled support. I find supporting my friends and colleagues helps me stay positive.
All of us working together will lead the change we want to see. Let your ideas carry you to new experiences and create positive impacts in your workplace. I will be there cheering you on and supporting you every step of the way.
Tanya Wick is the vice-president of people and services at Tolko. This blog was originally published by Tolko. Republished with permission.
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